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Hijacking illegal billboards.
April 27, 2009 9:04 PM   Subscribe


 
they don't want corporate ads, they want their friends' ads!
posted by the aloha at 9:09 PM on April 27, 2009 [10 favorites]


Very cool. I like the stuff that's more art-for-art's-sake than the stuff that's a commentary on advertising and consumer culture. Clearly the whole project was about replacing ads with art, and giving us a break from constantly being sold shit we don't need, so the commentary stuff seemed a bit redundant.

Though I liked the America-land-of-the-burger thingie too.
posted by hifiparasol at 9:09 PM on April 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well done, sir!
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 9:13 PM on April 27, 2009


Nice work. Hopefully they won't go on to become self-satisfied sellouts like most of the people in this film.
posted by you just lost the game at 9:17 PM on April 27, 2009


Apropos the title, here's some art ad.

And while we're on the subject, I can't help mentioning we make money not art.
posted by doteatop at 9:43 PM on April 27, 2009


specially now that the crisis is making us thinking about what is it really important. (Buying has finally lost its cool).

Proofreading=not important. Gerunds, awesomeness is!
posted by longsleeves at 10:26 PM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, to be fair, the blog poster usually posts in Spanish so perhaps we can forgive a few proofreading errors.

Meanwhile ... what a great idea. Nice work to all involved. One thing though - some relief from all the visual clutter is sorely needed in many cities - it might have been nicer in a way just to paint the billboards one solid colour and leave it (but not necessarily the same colour for every billboard). Because one person's art can also be another person's visual pollution.

I tell you, if there was a politican I could vote for who promised to legislate billboards out of existence I would vote for that person in a heartbeat.
posted by awfurby at 10:32 PM on April 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Does anybody actually like this shit? It's all a bunch of Adbusters cliches. How are tiresome political slogans any better than corporate advertising that you can just tune out?

I get a kick out of the Snickers ad campaign. It's silly, it doesn't claim to be art, it doesn't even do a very good job of hawking its product. But I'd be annoyed if someone took all the Snickers ads and replaced them with "iAm a buy-product."
posted by nasreddin at 10:32 PM on April 27, 2009 [7 favorites]


And besides, in the parts of town where they set these up, there really isn't a line between ads and art. Look at a cool mural and it's almost certainly the storefront of some bullshit boutique.
posted by nasreddin at 10:34 PM on April 27, 2009


I'm confused, is advertising not art?
posted by shii at 10:36 PM on April 27, 2009


artvertising
posted by JustAsItSounds at 11:27 PM on April 27, 2009


I'm confused, is advertising not art?

You are essentially asking for the definition of art. Here, the best thing is to decide for yourself.

Some advertising musical art: A jumping off point, if it's possible to jump off of a grassy hillside
posted by longsleeves at 11:40 PM on April 27, 2009


Does anybody actually like this shit?

I liked it. Thought it was visually creative.

It's all a bunch of Adbusters cliches.

I'm not sure we clicked on the same link. The images are mostly thoroughly apolitical.

some bullshit boutique.

You're too young to be so negative.
posted by ornate insect at 11:46 PM on April 27, 2009


You're too young to be so negative.

I see the fun police have arrived.
posted by Wolof at 11:53 PM on April 27, 2009


The Bullshit Boutique.

Opens tommorow. Yes, it really costs $35 now excuse me, buy it or put it back with the other t-shirts.
posted by longsleeves at 12:01 AM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm confused, is advertising not art?

Andy Warhol once said, "It's not art until the check clears." And he said that as a guest star on the Love Boat, which gives it that extra fortitude of truth.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:36 AM on April 28, 2009 [12 favorites]


Hey! Pictures are kewl and all, but there are words that explain things and such!

As the main organizer explained to the artists who choose to get involved, the agency that owns the 'attacked' billboards operates on an illegal basis. "NPA outdoor operates over 500 street level billboards in NYC ranging in size from about 4'x4' to 50'x12'. All of these advertising structures are illegal. I found this out by talking to the NYC Department of Buildings which has no permits for the NPA outdoor structures but has its hands full dealing with the rampant illegal billboard situation. I have also spoken directly with NPA outdoor employees who have told me that the NYPD will jail them from time to time at which point NPA lawyers bail them out and they are compensated 500 dollars for the nuisance of spending the night in jail".
posted by P.o.B. at 3:05 AM on April 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


America, Beefin' it up!

That's a slogan I can get behind.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:24 AM on April 28, 2009


Looking at the comments here is interesting.

A few months back, Shepherd Fairey came through Boston and vomited a bunch of his stuff all over Harvard Square and other places I hang out. His work, full of fiddly contrasts between red black and tan, filled up some of the few blank spaces left there, and made the area even more tense and overstimulating for me.

There is this dude down in New Orleans who goes around slapping grey paint over every bit of graffitti he sees; he's gotten in trouble for going over graffitti-flavored murals, he's painted over Banksy, he just doesn't care. And looking at the reactions some of you are having to this project, and thinking about how I reacted to Fairey shitting his visually-noisy "brand" all over where I hang out, I think I understand him. A patch of grey paint may not be pretty but it's less noise in a world saturated with advertising and graffitti; the ads are "authorized" so he can't stop them - but the graffitti is "unauthorized" so he can cover it over with a nice soothing patch of greyness.

Art adopting the techniques and shapes of advertising runs the risk of being just as annoying as ads. Some of the pieces shown here do that - and I find them to be the ones I roll my eyes at, as most of them are cluttered and noisy; it's the ones that make use of empty space that I really find interesting, and would smile at if I passed them on the street.


Also, nasredin's view of the current Snickers campaign is interesting; I find the "puns" to be lame enough that I'm going to think of them every time I think of getting a Snickers, and not get one - the brand is now associated with pathetically desperate attempts at humor in my mind.
posted by egypturnash at 4:35 AM on April 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


it's the ones that make use of empty space that I really find interesting

Yeah, I liked the one with the bunny. Partly because I like bunnies, and childrens' book illustrative style, but also because I liked the negative space around it.

There seems to be three camps in this discussion:
1. I like some space to be free of imagery
2. I like imagery that looks neat
3. I like communications that are intellectually challenging

We're going to get a combination of these things no matter what, so there's really not much point in stridently arguing one position over another. Advertising or anti-advertising can be either #2 or #3, by the way.

The zero-sum relationship here is between #1 and the combination of #2 and #3, though, which is why I support the battle between advertising and anti-advertising, as long as they're fighting over the same spaces (as these pieces were). It's more fun when it's displacing the actual advertising, not simply adding to the clutter.

I get tired of some Adbusters stuff, but that's when the work is tired and cliché, not just because it's anti-advertising. I get tired of boring advertising, too. It's bad because it's bad, not because it's anti-advertising.
posted by dammitjim at 4:59 AM on April 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is a great idea, and the art is interesting.

As an urban rat, I see lots of visual flashes and lurid scenes on every inch of things, but it's my home so I love it. If I wanted peace and uniformity I'd move to a condo complex in the burbs. So if you can't aesthetically parse the difference between some bland corporate screed and a crazy piece of guerrilla art, and if you can't appreciate amateurs trying to surprise commuters and neighbors with unexpected joy, keep your snarky ass out of my city please.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:47 AM on April 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


The Snickers campaign is actively keeping me from buying the candy bars on the principle that I don't want to be the one encouraging them. I don't tend to eat Snickers anyway, but now I am deliberately not eating Snickers. On purpose. As hard as I can.

The pun that we couldn't get for the longest time was "Chewmute", seen on buses around Boston, until one of my more astute friends finally guessed it could only be a pun on "commute". With nobody else able to provide a better explanation, we have left it at that.

I hate you, Snickers ad people.
posted by Spatch at 5:57 AM on April 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


So if you can't aesthetically parse the difference between some bland corporate screed and a crazy piece of guerrilla art, and if you can't appreciate amateurs trying to surprise commuters and neighbors with unexpected joy, keep your snarky ass out of my city please.

The problem is that it's not crazy. It's boring, derivative work that looks like shit you could find on deviantART. That's fine. Those artists can make their art all they want, sell it and show it to their friends. But I don't need their shit shoved in my face on a daily basis. As far as I'm concerned, it's the same bland visual pollution as corporate advertising, except with a healthy dose of preaching-to-the-choir tossed in. The fact that they're amateurs, or the fact that they mean well, just doesn't make any difference. Give me the grey paint any day.
posted by nasreddin at 6:06 AM on April 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Regarding the "it's just more noise" complaint: It's New York god-damn City; even if all the ads they painted over were blank, it would not appreciably reduce the amount of visual 'noise' that one gets from opening one's eyes in Manhattan. One of the things I like best about public art is its ability to increase the sense of wonderment in an environment, and to project a sense of "why is this here?" To the unknowing eye, the cowboy hamburger could be an ad for something, but the fact that I don't know what for (or even if it's really an ad) is pretty cool. Some of the art is wank-y, yes, but if you get a bunch of artists together, some of them are bound to be wankers.

Also, the mural in front of the Bullshit Boutique on Kenmare and Elizabeth is kinda cool because it has Spock in drag.
posted by Jon_Evil at 6:07 AM on April 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's silly, it doesn't claim to be art, it doesn't even do a very good job of hawking its product. But I'd be annoyed if someone took all the Snickers ads and replaced them with "iAm a buy-product."
posted by nasreddin at 1:32 AM on April 28


It does an excellent job of hawking its product. You remember the ads positively, and you associate them with Snickers which will give you a positive image of the product. It won't make you run out an buy a Snickers, but no ad does that. But the next time people who've seen stand in a grocery store checkout aisle and see all the candy, if they choose to pick on up, they will be more likely to pick up a snickers than if they had not seen the ad. Can you even recall an ad for Three Musketeers, Milky Way, or M&M's?
posted by Pastabagel at 6:28 AM on April 28, 2009


A patch of grey paint may not be pretty but it's less noise in a world saturated with advertising and graffitti; the ads are "authorized" so he can't stop them - but the graffitti is "unauthorized" so he can cover it over with a nice soothing patch of greyness.

I see your point, but here in NYC, it's all about noise. If you don't like noise, or people, or overstimulation, you really shouldn't live here. I always find it strange when people who move here don't understand that.

Of course, if you really want overstimulation, try Tokyo. Americans got nothin' on that place.
posted by fungible at 7:29 AM on April 28, 2009


and giving us a break from constantly being sold shit we don't need,

Who do they think it is making these ads to begin with? It sure as hell isn't the MBAs or marketing people at the client. It's definitely not the Account Exec team at the agencies. Guess what...it's the CREATIVE TEAMS AT THE AGENCIES. Designers. Yes, art school people. You want to get rid of corporate ads? Stop sucking at the corporate tit. You can't have it both ways.
posted by spicynuts at 7:58 AM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


There are people who want to live in a gray world, and I've just got to come to terms with the fact that I'll never understand them. But honestly, I'm not going to try too hard. It seems like one of those things that you can't understand without becoming the object of your empathy. So its best I let them remain a mystery, and regard them with the same fleeting, dispassionate curiosity as I might some drab gray animal at a zoo.
posted by zylocomotion at 8:02 AM on April 28, 2009


There are people who want to live in a gray world, and I've just got to come to terms with the fact that I'll never understand them. But honestly, I'm not going to try too hard. It seems like one of those things that you can't understand without becoming the object of your empathy. So its best I let them remain a mystery, and regard them with the same fleeting, dispassionate curiosity as I might some drab gray animal at a zoo.

Oh please. Don't be dramatic. I don't "want to live in a gray world." I just don't think replacing ads with art is all it's cracked up to be.
posted by nasreddin at 8:14 AM on April 28, 2009


I had to go look up the punny Snickers campaign because I am the only Mefite who does live in NYC. It seems pretty hit or miss because some puns aren't easily identifiable and others make you chuckle. Then again, most ad campaigns walk that slippery slope between "clever" and "hackneyed."
posted by misha at 8:19 AM on April 28, 2009


To be clear, I don't like the Snickers campaign by itself. What I like is that it parodies the other ads on the subway in a mildly funny meta kind of way. After seeing the same ads day in and day out for years, it's a pretty clever joke.
posted by nasreddin at 8:21 AM on April 28, 2009


His work, full of fiddly contrasts between red black and tan, filled up some of the few blank spaces left there, and made the area even more tense and overstimulating for me... A patch of grey paint may not be pretty but it's less noise in a world saturated with advertising and graffitti...

What, are you trying to postpone the onset of the black shakes or something? If you don't want a saturation of information, stay out of information-saturated areas - like huge population centers where millions of minds compete for space to express themselves, legally and otherwise.
posted by FatherDagon at 8:26 AM on April 28, 2009


What's with the "you live in the city, deal with it" argument? Do you people oppose parks and waterfronts too, because they're not completely spraypainted with some jackass attempt at self-expression? Just because there's a lot of stimulation, doesn't mean it has to be ALL STIMULATION ALL THE TIME. There's a reason most New Yorkers stay the hell out of Times Square.
posted by nasreddin at 8:32 AM on April 28, 2009


When you say Snickers, I think of the UK campaign. Which features Mr T and a tank.
posted by mippy at 8:36 AM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Does anybody actually like this shit?

I do. Does that make me bad or stupid?
posted by shmegegge at 8:47 AM on April 28, 2009


Snaxi? Eh, cute, for a minute. But then I find the Hang In There cat dumb, while it others still like them (and it's from the 1970s?). I'll stay away from Snickers thanks to their un-flash page: "Hold up, buddy You'll need the latest Adobe Flash player plug-in to see the world." Buddy? The world? Eh, maybe not.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:47 AM on April 28, 2009


I was annoyed by this article until I got to the part about the street-level billboards all being illegal in the first place. If that's true, then paint away boys and girls. But where the ad spaces are legal private property, then keep your hands off. Draw on your own walls, or take it up with whatever government agency is responsible for licensing billboard space.
posted by rocket88 at 8:51 AM on April 28, 2009


We don't want ads or "art".
posted by Zambrano at 8:59 AM on April 28, 2009


I don't "want to live in a gray world."

Sorry, nas, didn't mean that personally. I was referring to the Gray Ghost and corresponding links.

I just don't think replacing ads with art is all it's cracked up to be.

I think you've already made your point that you like Snickers ads.

Don't be dramatic.

Uhm...no.

Or actually, what am I saying? I mean, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!
posted by zylocomotion at 9:25 AM on April 28, 2009


awfurby: it's been done, in Vienna (german link, says people were invited to write msgs on painted over advertising) and somewhere in Germany, can't remember...

In the middle ages, people weren't familiar with or exposed to more than a couple 100 images or symbols for their whole live. (Mostly symbols from the bible, sculpted at the cathedral entrance...) Imagine how much power every single one of those had. That is why each time you look at a billboard your capacity for meaning gets a little watered down IMHO
posted by yoHighness at 10:52 AM on April 28, 2009


I appreciate bad puns.
posted by KingoftheWhales at 12:03 PM on April 28, 2009


I think this is pretty awesome (but then again, I'm one of those city-dwelling folk who actually likes and appreciates the visual landscape of the city -- graffiti and all). I can understand the hatred for amateur scrawls and tags done by toys, but I don't really get the negative reaction here or the condescension. There were a bunch of illegal billboards with corporate ads; now they're illegal billboards with works done by independent artists. If you think the art looks like an ad, then what's the difference to you? How is seeing an annoying, aesthetically unpleasing anti-consumerist message worse than seeing an annoying, aesthetically unpleasing consumerist one?

I grew up in Brooklyn and while I never wrote graffiti myself I have a lot of friends that did (and several who still do). The art world is incredibly exclusionary so forgive me if I don't think that kids from the city, many of them poor and/or brown, being able to put something creative out into the world is a bad thing. What people don't really understand is that graf is not really about vandalism, nor is it about defacing private property; it's about self-expression. Why do you think 99% of all graffiti's content is the artist's name? It is about proving you were somewhere at a moment in time, that you matter, that you've made your mark on the world in some small way. We can argue about aesthetics all day -- I will concede that few handstyles are "attractive" -- but art is not all about aesthetics. (What is this all about? It's about a kid who is just livin his life and tellin his story, the only way he knows how -- REVS)

Personally, I love the fact that art has moved beyond the cloisters of the museum and that the barrier of entry for putting your work out there has all but disappeared. I like that graffiti and street art has nothing to do with the market and so is very much just art for art's sake (which is still true even if the artist is trying to broadcast a message at the same time; for some people art intrinsically has agency). I like that it has context beyond hanging on a gallery wall, that it is inextricably linked with its surroundings and city life and culture.

And yeah, advertising and street art have become conflated to the point where I frequently can't tell if something is an artistic expression or a guerilla marketing campaign anymore, but while that's annoying it just further illustrates my first point -- why is replacing an ad with art such a terrible thing if ultimately they just look the same to you? And why do people live in cities if they don't like the way they look? I'm not arguing for defacing things like parks or waterfronts or places that generally benefit from looking "clean" -- and real street artists aren't either, by the way; again, the point is not defacing property -- but painting in a subway tunnel? Putting murals on brick walls? Paste ups on billboards? It's not like those places were particularly aesthetically pleasing to begin with, so count me among those in favor of making them more visually interesting.


(Thanks very much for this post; I wish I were in the city to see some of it. I also wish they'd put the names of the artists...the America: Beefin' with the Best piece looks like something ESPO would do, but I don't know what he looks like so I can't tell if that's him.)
posted by cosmic osmo at 3:04 PM on April 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't think it's any worse. I think it's pretty much the same thing, and doesn't deserve the holier-than-thou presentation. I actually don't have anything against graffiti, either, at least when it's not stuffed full of political sanctimony.

Personally, I love the fact that art has moved beyond the cloisters of the museum and that the barrier of entry for putting your work out there has all but disappeared. I like that graffiti and street art has nothing to do with the market and so is very much just art for art's sake (which is still true even if the artist is trying to broadcast a message at the same time; for some people art intrinsically has agency). I like that it has context beyond hanging on a gallery wall, that it is inextricably linked with its surroundings and city life and culture.

Sorry, but this is so romanticized it's ridiculous. OK, the art world is elitist. But many of the art-school kids I know have either been graffiti writers or have hung out with them. These aren't usually snotty rich people--they're just kids who decided that art school was the best way to follow their passion. How the hell does a painting hanging on a gallery wall not have "context"? How is it not linked to its surroundings and city life and culture? Are you one of those people who thinks Basquiat's early work was, like, so much more authentic, man?

And if art intrinsically has agency even if it also has some other purpose, then why doesn't advertising have agency? Where do you draw the line? (Are Toulouse-Latrec's posters art?)
posted by nasreddin at 3:53 PM on April 28, 2009


Ah, and what if you do paintings of advertisements, changing virtually nothing about the color composition or design? Hm?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:27 PM on April 28, 2009


Sorry, but this is so romanticized it's ridiculous. OK, the art world is elitist. But many of the art-school kids I know have either been graffiti writers or have hung out with them. These aren't usually snotty rich people--they're just kids who decided that art school was the best way to follow their passion.

I know art school kids, too. Many of my graffiti writer friends are art school kids. They're not "snotty rich people", but they're not necessarily part of the Art (capital A) institution I'm talking about. They're not getting solo shows at the Saatchi gallery; they're putting exhibitions together with their RISD friends in one of their friend's storefronts in Bushwick (or they are putting paste ups on walls outside). Graduating from art school doesn't make you part of the Art institution and doesn't grant you any particular privileges. If you don't think putting your shit on walls is an easier way to expose people to your art than to go through traditional channels, I don't know what to tell you.

How the hell does a painting hanging on a gallery wall not have "context"? How is it not linked to its surroundings and city life and culture?

I didn't say a painting on a gallery wall didn't have context. I said that street art has context beyond gallery walls, because it interacts with its surrounding environment the way that a painting in a gallery does not. I meant literal, physical context, not temporal or cultural, so I am sorry if that was confusing. Take, for example, when gallery owners tried to capitalize on the popularity of graffiti in the early 1990s and had writers put out work done on canvases; these paintings were unsuccessful because graffiti needs the context of the street.

Are you one of those people who thinks Basquiat's early work was, like, so much more authentic, man?

No.

And if art intrinsically has agency even if it also has some other purpose, then why doesn't advertising have agency? Where do you draw the line?

Let me clarify my previous statement. Some people believe that art intrinsically has agency, that all of visual culture somehow serves to exert some kind of larger influence, that it is an active force. For these people, art that has a political message can also be just "art for art's sake," rather than art for politics' sake.

Of course advertising has agency. That is the purpose of advertising--to influence consumers to buy. If advertising had no effect, it would not be very successful advertising.

(Are Toulouse-Latrec's posters art?)

Anything can be art. (I know that's kind of a bullshit statement, but in a world where artists take objects and make them "art" by virtue of being artists, and museums exhibit cultural artifacts and make them "art" by virtue of them being in museums, I think it's stupid to play the "What is art?" game.)

I'm sorry you think my ideas about street art and graffiti are romanticized and ridiculous. I am an art student who spends all day studying Art (capital A); while there is certainly a lot of bullshit graf and street art out there (as there is a lot of bullshit Art), that doesn't change my opinion that the public exhibition of visual work created by artists for no other reason than to just put it out into the world to tell their story (knowing that it is probably temporary and will be painted over soon) represents an important and welcome departure from traditional means of exhibiting art. It breaks down barriers for art to be seen, and for audiences to see, and I think that is significant.

Again, a lot (a LOT) of "street art" is bullshit. That doesn't change the fact that graffiti as an art form gave voice to a lot of artists who wouldn't (or couldn't) otherwise be heard and that a lot of it moves beyond decorating walls to actually saying something. I firmly believe that graffiti is capable of being "good" art. Did you click the link in my post? Revs is writing his autobiography, page by page, in forgotten subway tunnels under New York City. Put it on the interior walls of a room and it could be an installation at PS 1 or something and no one would bat an eyelash.

(Funnily enough, it's probably "good" -- according to modernist art criticism, anyway -- only in the subway tunnels, where it acknowledges the qualities that make graffiti, graffiti. Anyway.)
posted by cosmic osmo at 7:49 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


But the next time people who've seen stand in a grocery store checkout aisle and see all the candy, if they choose to pick on up, they will be more likely to pick up a snickers than if they had not seen the ad.

Not to pick on PB here, but I get kind of tired of the whole "advertising works on your lizard primate brain in subtle ways you can never hope to comprehend" argument. I buy Snickers because it tastes good. Yeah, sure, the ads have provided awareness of the product, and I might not* know about Snickers if not for its ad campaign, but when it comes down to deciding between Snickers, Milky Way and M&Ms, I choose Snickers because I like what happens when I put it in my mouth.** When you're inundated with advertising everywhere you go, down to the wall space above the urinal, and you're a reasonably intelligent person, it is possible to tune out a good deal of it and make rational decisions based on your own likes, dislikes, and needs, no matter what Don Fucking Draper says.

*Might not. There are plenty of candy bars I'm aware of and enjoy, like Sky Bars, that I'm fairly certain I've never seen an ad for, anywhere, in any medium, in my life.

**Metafilter: I like what happens when I put it in my mouth.

posted by hifiparasol at 8:09 PM on April 28, 2009


Also, that's a lot of goddamn commas.
posted by hifiparasol at 8:10 PM on April 28, 2009


Packed with commas, that comment really satisfies.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:06 AM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Are you one of those people who thinks Basquiat's early work was, like, so much more authentic, man?"

Christ, what an asshole.
posted by HopperFan at 3:01 AM on May 5, 2009


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